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Covid testing units in North Bengal stretched with thousands returning

Covid testing units in North Bengal stretched with thousands returning
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Darjeeling: A large number of migrants returning to North Bengal have put the COVID-19 testing system in a spot of bother, resulting in huge backlogs.

In North Bengal, there are two testing facilities — one at Malda Medical College and the other at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH,) Siliguri. While the first testing facility conducts tests for Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur, the NBMCH conducts tests for Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and at times for Sikkim too.

With thousands of migrant workers, students and patients returning, the testing infrastructure has been stretched to the limit. While working round-the-clock, Malda conducts around 1,000 tests daily, the number of swab samples coming in every day is more than 1,500. The same situation prevails at the NBMCH.

While the NBMCH has a backlog of around 7000 tests, Malda has 3,000. "Most of the migrant workers are testing positive and most of them are asymptomatic. The lab is working round-the-clock but as the number of returnees is increasing and we are collecting swabs of all of them, the backlog is growing by the day. However, the returnees are being quarantined to prevent community spread," stated Dr Bhushan Chakravarty, CMOH, Malda.

Another major problem is that the returnees are making private travel arrangements and are arriving by chartered buses. In such cases, the administration has to rely on the district and border checkpoints to relay the information to them so that health checks and quarantines can be arranged. S Poonambalam, District Magistrate, Darjeeling, stated: "People coming through official channels including Shramik Special trains, buses arranged by the government are being screened and action is being taken as per protocol. At present, there are many who are making private arrangements. The Chakkarmari, Khoribari and Gopalganj checkposts of the district are functioning round-the-clock and relaying necessary information. Accordingly, screening arrangements are being made."

The District Magistrate stated that all asymptomatic persons will be sent for home quarantine. "The symptomatic cases will be sent to institutional quarantine or Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) hospitals," added Poonambalam.

Two persons coming from from Indore of Hila Tea Estate tested positive.

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